For members


What you can and can’t do in your apartment’s basement room in Switzerland

From storing flammables to practicing hobbies and moving in, here’s everything you can and can’t do in the cellar or basement room of your Swiss apartment block.

What you can and can't do in your apartment's basement room in Switzerland
Can you store anything in your basement in Switzerland? Photo by SHVETS production:

When you buy or rent an apartment in Switzerland it should come with a basement room, known as a keller in German or cave in French.

They are on the underground floors, vary in size and each apartment in the block will have one.

They make ideal storage rooms, particularly for those not fortunate enough to rent larger apartments

While in most cases you’ll be allowed to do and store almost everything in your basement, some restrictions and recommendations do still apply.

We’ve answered a few of the most frequently asked questions to give you an idea of what you can and can’t do in your basement in Switzerland.

Are there restrictions to what I can store in my basement?

The short answer is, yes. The Swiss fire protection regulations stipulates that flammable liquids, such as petrol, denatured alcohol or kerosene, can only be stored in small quantities.

In more detail, tenants can store up to a maximum of 25 litres in tested plastic or metal canisters of flammable liquids in the entire basement area. This means that you can only store 25 litres of flammable liquids in your basement if nobody else has stored any flammables in theirs. In short: it is advisable to speak to your neighbours first to ensure you don’t break any laws.

When it comes to gas containers, however, the regulations aren’t quite as generous. Any storage of gas containers, such as gas bottles for the grill, is strictly forbidden inside buildings. Gas containers must always be stored in a dry place protected from the sun outside of your home (and basement).

Can I store firewood in my basement?

If you’re getting excited for BBQ season or are looking to stock up on some firewood for the winter and don’t know where to store it, keep in mind that there are some rules to keeping it in your basement.

The maximum permitted amount of firewood to be stored inside buildings is 5 cubic metres with an exception made for boiler rooms where the maximum quantity is 10 cubic metres.

Generally, firewood should be stored in dry places, so if your basement is dry enough, there is nothing wrong with storing your firewood there. Should your basement have high humidity, however, damages to the firewood could lead to mould growth on the basement walls and hence to issues with your landlord.

What about food storage?

While there are no regulations for the storage of food in basements, do keep in mind other tenants. Always store your fruit and vegetables in closed containers so they don’t rot or attract pests.

Can I have a freezer in my basement?

Whether you can have a freezer in your basement will largely depend on the structure of your basement and your rental agreement.

If the structural requirements are met, such as the necessary power connection, a solid base and dryness, in theory, having a working freezer in the basement will not prove an issue. However, tenants are advised to discuss this matter with their landlords beforehand, as the latter are entitled to ask you to pay for the resulting energy consumption.

Can I live in my basement?

As a general rule, a basement is meant to be used as a storage room so converting it into a living room or bedroom is not permitted.

There are many reasons as to why one shouldn’t live in the basement, with a common reason being that safety, such as fire protection, is not guaranteed. In addition to this, rooms without windows in Switzerland must not be used for residential purposes.

Can the landlord set up rules for the basement?

Generally, basements are regarded as an extension of your apartment so some rules will apply as per your rental agreement. For example, your landlord may require you to thoroughly clean your basement once a year and certainly when moving out – though in the latter case they are known to look the other way!

Moreover, your landlord can stop you from storing certain things in your basement, particularly if your neighbours aren’t a fan of goods, such as smelly rubbish bags.

What about practising a hobby on the premises?

The good news is that you are allowed to practise most of your hobbies in your basement – though, again, you may want to keep in mind that the basement area is shared among other residents. In Switzerland, this means keeping the noise levels down at all times but particularly on Sundays.

So, while you can use your basement to foster your painting skills, starting a heavy metal rock band may not gather equal support.

And lastly, can the landlord go into my basement without asking?

You’ll be happy to find that no, they absolutely can’t. By signing the rental agreement your landlord has agreed to let you use the property for your sole use – and that includes the basement.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


‘3.5 bedroom apartment’: What are half rooms in Switzerland?

Whether you have recently moved to Switzerland or are hunting for a new apartment, chances are you have seen 1.5 or 3.5-room flats advertised online. But what is a half room?

'3.5 bedroom apartment': What are half rooms in Switzerland?

When browsing popular real estate sites in Switzerland in search for your next abode, you will regularly come across 1.5 to 5.5-room apartments.

But what exactly is a 0.5-room?

Between 1951 and 1983, a half room was described as a room between six and ten square metres and a minimum width of 2.10 metres.

But this is no longer the case.

Today, there is no universally valid definition for a 0.5-room and the term only serves as a loose guideline for potential tenants.

In practice, the term ‘half room’ often stands for the smallest room in a flat that isn’t quite large enough to qualify as a full room, such as the hallway or a storage room.

In Switzerland, apartments may be advertised as featuring a half room if they have one of the following: a kitchen area which is at least 12 square metres in size, a dining or living area within the kitchen space with a minimum size of six square meters, or a spacious cloakroom, entrance room or hallway of at least six square metres in size.

Many of these half room apartments are advertised as such to prevent putting off potential tenants who might be expecting a larger apartment.

So which rooms are considered whole rooms in Swiss apartments?

If you’re not yet familiar with the structure of Swiss apartments, you may not know that in Switzerland only the following are counted as ‘whole’ rooms when renting or selling an apartment: living room, bedrooms and a study.

Yet other rooms are not counted as individual rooms. These include the bathroom, shower area, and kitchen – though there is one exception.

So-called eat-in kitchens, meaning a room in the flat where there is a dining area in addition to a cooking area, are counted as half a room in Switzerland. Most commonly, this is a L-shaped area in the living room where people place dining tables.

READ MORE: Renting in Switzerland: The hurdles you’ll need to overcome to find an apartment

In addition to advertising available flats in rooms, Switzerland also advertises flats in square metres as is the case in other European countries.

But what is included when calculating the living space?

In Swiss apartments, there are so-called main and secondary use areas.

The main area consists of the entrance hall, living room, dining room, bathroom, toilet, kitchen (including the fitted kitchen furniture), pantry, built-in cupboards, corridors, internal stairs, offices, oven and if available, the fireplace.

The only exception is Geneva, where kitchen is counted as a separate room, so if you see an advert for 4.5-room flat, this means two bedrooms living room, a ‘half-room’ (as defined above) as well as a kitchen.

The secondary use area must never be counted towards the living space. That includes the balcony, conservatory, terrace, attic, basement, craft room, bicycle storage room, and garage.

However, even here there is one exception.

If the conservatory can be heated and hence lived in throughout the year, it can be counted as part of the living space and thus a main use area.

Additionally, the area under the sink, toilet, washbasin, bathtub, and built-in cupboard is also included in the living space since this space is also used by the tenant.

When it comes to penthouses however there are no precise regulations in Switzerland and in this case, it is best to ask your landlord directly.

Also note that if you think the square metre calculations are somewhat off and your apartment is in fact slightly smaller of larger, small deviations can occur as per most Swiss rental agreements.

If, however, your apartment is nowhere near the size that is stated on the rental agreement, you may still withdraw from the contract or even ask for a rent reduction.

For a rent reduction to be considered, it is essential that the deviation was not apparent during your inspection of the apartment, or you would have needed to complain prior to signing the contract – but this doesn’t mean the rent reduction will be granted.

In Switzerland rent reductions are only granted in exceptional cases once the rental agreement is signed. This is because if you liked what you saw enough to sign a contract for a respective amount, it would be unreasonable to want to pay less based on incorrect living space calculations alone.